Sunday 29 July 2012


We find an ongoing challenge and pleasure in trying to identify the people and places depicted in Bertha’s artworks.


In an earlier posting (Ontario Ladies' College), I speculated about the location of this painting, wondering if it represents the view from where Bertha's front lawn or porch at 6 Rossmore Rd used to be, looking southeast to the corner of Rossmore Rd and Olive Ave.

I had a chance to visit the neighbourhood recently, and took a photo in that direction. I'm pretty sure it's the same view. The house on the corner appears to have been extended at the back since those days, and the trees are undoubtedly not the same trees, so many years later. The siding is modern. But the angle of the roof seems right, the windows are about right, and so is the colour of the brick houses in the distance. Within a small degree of artistic licence, it's a plausible match.


We had an even more compelling identification a short while ago. Bertha did this pencil sketch of distant mountains, where she depicted the profile as that of a reclining woman.

The Sleeping Giant
There are mountain views in many places that resemble recumbent human figures. A famous Ontario example is the Sleeping Giant near Thunder Bay, the rock formations of the Sibley Peninsula. According to, "An Ojibway legend identifies the Sleeping Giant as Nanabijou, who was turned to stone when the secret location of a rich silver mine was disclosed."

View from Jericho Beach,
Vancouver BC
Because we know Bertha visited British Columbia several times, we wondered if the sketch came from there, and the ship on the water suggested it might be Vancouver. We couldn't find any well-known 'named' associations like the Sleeping Giant, but I asked my daughter, who has spent several years in Vancouver as a student and goes there frequently, to look out for it next time she was there. But there was no need to wait that long. She thought the skyline looked very familiar, and within a short while she had located this photo of the view toward Stanley Park from Jericho Beach. No doubt!

'Mrs Joseph Frampton'

Identifying portraits is sometimes straightforward, for example where we recognize Ingle family members, or where we have labelled photos, or where my sister recognizes neighbours from 6 Rossmore Rd. But in many cases there's an ongoing enquiry. Here's a fine portrait in pencil, one of just a few that Bertha signed, its date unknown. On the reverse side she wrote 'Mrs Joseph Frampton'.

A search of the 1901 Census of Canada revealed a Mr and Mrs Joseph Frampton. They were farmers in Westminster, Middlesex South, Ontario. Joseph is shown as being born in 1848 in England, and emigrating to Canada in 1871. He was married to Sarah Jane Frampton, also English by birth, also born in 1848, emigrated in 1872. They had a son born in 1875. [Note, all three are incorrectly indexed in as 'Frampler'.]

I also found Joseph and Sarah Framton [sic] listed in the 1911 Census, living in Westminster. His birthdate is given there as 1850. One might speculate that he had not yet turned 21 when he emigrated, and falsified his birthdate at that time (giving it as 1848) to appear to be of the age of majority.

Sarah Jane Frampton died a widow, aged 80, in 1928, in Lambeth, Ontario.  Could she be our 'Mrs Joseph Frampton'? If she is, her dates suggest that the portrait may be earlier than the date we had tentatively ascribed to it (the 1910s), by which time Sarah Jane would have been approaching 70. The woman in Bertha's portrait appears to be younger.

Lila Caroline Knowles (left)
With Bertha's connection to the Farquhar McGillivray Knowles studio from her first years in Toronto, we've been interested in other artists who studied or taught there at the same time. One was Lila Caroline Taylor, who in 1931 would become the third wife of Farquhar McGillivray Knowles. My sister came across a photo of Lila Caroline in an article about Alma College (St Thomas, Ontario), where she was Art Director from 1925 till her retirement in 1957.

Looking at the photo, it struck my sister that this portrait by Bertha, which we had never identified, might be Lila Caroline. We've since been unable to find other photos on-line that might help to corroborate the identification. Recently, however, my sister had the great pleasure to visit with the artist Bernice Harper, another former art teacher from Alma College (1962 - 1966), who remembers meeting Lila Caroline Knowles. Bernice kindly lent my sister an Alma College anniversary book from 1977, in which there are two photos of Lila Caroline (in addition to the one above). One new photo is very small, in a 1935 montage of students and staff; a later one shows her in about 1954, at a much more advanced age than the lady in Bertha's portrait. Still, we think it could be she ...

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